Release Date: Feb 24, 2017
Record label: CYHSY, Inc.
For all intents and purposes, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah has always been the vision of lead singer/songwriter Alec Ounsworth. However, with the departure of original drummer Sean Greenhalgh after 2014's Only Run, CYHSY technically became the sole creative property of Ounsworth. It is his voice, both literally and creatively, that permeates all of the band's fifth studio album, 2017's The Tourist.
Since their 2005 debut, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah have evolved from being an actual band into being just an idea of one. Once a proper quintet, they've gradually shed members over the past decade, and after drummer Sean Greenhalgh bailed following 2014's Only Run, the group was down to one man clapping--lead singer/songwriter Alec Ounsworth. Of course, Ounsworth has been the band's creative center since the very beginning, and even though he's released music under his own name, he's held onto the Clap Your Hands brand--as much for its obfuscating qualities as recognition value.
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah have always done things on their own terms and The Tourist, the band's first release in three years and fifth overall, is no different. Although none of their subsequent recordings generated the same volume of buzz as their self-titled debut in 2005, the eccentric brand of indie rock that spawned a following then has been solid enough throughout the years to keep them in the game. The offbeat synergy of melodic weirdness and unconventional dynamism is decidedly an acquired taste, mostly due to the nasally screak of head clapper Alec Ounsworth.
The opening tracks of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah albums are subversive statements of intent. Back in 2005, the opening gambit of their self-titled LP was a goofy clap-along circus ditty with no real guitar or drums. It was a clean break with the vanilla mid-noughties indie scene of the time. Then, the even weirder Some Loud Thunder opened with an song smothered in so much distortion that some listeners sent their copies back thinking that the mastering was shot.
This hasn't stopped CYHSY's beating heart from pounding however, with consistent shows in and around the US and Ounsworth releasing numerous singles and demos (old and new material) via Soundcloud and other platforms. This brings us to The Tourist, the fifth studio LP by the band and their latest official release since 2014's Only Run. The album clocks in at a comfortable ten tracks and includes singles "Fireproof" and "Down (Is Where I Want to Be)", both offering a blend of synthesized fusion and classic CYHSY jaded indie with piercing vocal melodies respective of Ounsworth's signature style.
Twelve years on the Internet is an eternity. When Clap Your Hands Say Yeah first burst onto the scene in 2005, MP3 blogs were all the rage, and major labels were flailing in frustration for the Next Big Thing to save their dying model. CYHSY were among the first wave of bands in the BitTorrent era to eschew that path, building a buzz and eventually selling more than 100,000 records on their own.
2017 is the year of renewal for former Pitchfork deities: Dirty Projectors, Animal Collective, and now Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, whose 2005 debut caused major palpitations in the world of noughties blog rock. Last remaining member Alec Ounsworth's fifth album begins with a promise of recalibration: The Pilot and A Chance to Cure are lusciously produced, but that spaciousness quickly resolves into knotty, ambling anthems of frustration. His voice is a caw which teeters on the edge of hysteria, and he certainly sings with intent: Down (Is Where I Want to Be) drags its listener into the pits of despair with him.
Over the past decade or so, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah has lurked in the shadow of their monumental 2005 self-titled debut, unable to recapture the verve that drove their meteoric ascension to one of indie-rock's premier crossover acts. On The Tourist, remaining member Alec Ounsworth returns to songs driven by his dynamic warble of a voice, which he often pitches up to a ragged bleat. By keeping Ounsworth's raspy, tremulous vocals front and center, the album succeeds in offering passing glimmers of a return to form.
It's been over a decade since Clap Your Hands Say Yeah delivered their impressive self-titled album, embodying the spirit of the internet and fulfilling the implicit promise that good music would float to the top, without the help of a record label, online. As their fifth album The Tourist drops, a lot has changed: For one, CYHSY are no longer a band; it's just vocalist Alec Ounsworth, a solo project under his old team's moniker. Disappointingly, another key transformation -- at least, going off of this album -- is Ounsworth's adoption of a pretty beige sound.
Immaculately produced - it is the cleanest Clap Your Hands Say Yeah album yet - and full of Alec Ounsworth's trademark yowl, 'The Tourist' represents only a limited sort of journey. Alec seems newly interested in the shape of his lyrics, often putting words together in rapid-fire, delivery, like the crackling aside "tough luck motherfucker" on 'A Chance To Cure,' just for the sound of it. Elsewhere, he grows conservative and derivative, such as on the wide-open, Tom Petty-indebted 'Better Off'.